As you may recall from my week five post I’ve been reading and working my way through Quiet by Fearne Cotton. As part of the process you were encouraged to write a letter to yourself and so I’d like to share mine:
Dear fifteen year old self,
You will become one of those sporty girls you used to frown upon and secretly be jealous of.
You will learn you don’t need makeup to walk out the door…infact when things get bad you’ll find you don’t need hair either.
You will learn stress is your enemy, values have to be changed and less care has to be given.
You are about to start starving yourself for an unrealistic ideal due to an offhand comment from a family member. You aren’t fat! You never have been! You will learn the importance of food and nourishment and will learn to eat again…but it will take a wasted 17yrs and impact your body and mind for life!
You will learn the true meaning of compassion and friendship.
You will learn your body is fickle and shouldn’t be taken for granted. In around 20yrs time you’re going to find a lump just under your left breast – there’s nothing you can do to stop it happening. While you’ll walk to the gates of hell with treatment you will somehow push the limits by opening the gates and going for a run around…all because one amazing woman is going to tell you that you can!
Please try to be kinder to yourself and love yourself just a little bit more. You’ve made me who I am and I am grateful but we could have made the journey easier.
Sunday – My recovery day and two very achy quads! Knowing that resting would only stiffen up my muscles more we had a lovely stroll to Hope in the sunshine, lunch and then stroll back for a restful afternoon of reading.
Monday – In a break from the norm I didn’t do my recovery run first thing. With an extra day together we decided on a hike up Win Hill from home, then I’d do my run before we met for walking back. It was the first time I’d ever done a run in such a way but I was so pleased with how it felt.
My quads still ached but the walk up stretched my legs out, and we had a great time before going our separate ways for our own mini adventures. Coming back was a brilliant cool down and we found paths neither of us had walked before, adding a little extra fun to the day.
We had a lazy afternoon of reading and discussed how nervous I was feeling about the coming week, how excited I was but how anxious I felt at the same time to finally be finishing active treatment.
Tuesday – 20mins strength training and then half an hour of yoga. The latter something which I haven’t done in a long time, it felt awkward but I felt great afterwards and so calm. But then while having breakfast I was hit with a wave of really overwhelming sadness. It was hard to be upbeat as I left home but I talked myself into being.
My appointment ran over and then I was told I’d be having my last review, it wasn’t scheduled until Friday but with my consultant on the ward it made more sense. Once again they were pleased with how I was, the condition of my skin and how treatment was going…but it felt like a goodbye before its time!
I was late getting out so had to move my complimentary therapy session at the Support Centre to Thursday, instead I had coffee in Smorgas garden and did a little blog work before my bus while the blossom off the trees blew around me and scented the air.
All that sadness from the morning hit again on the way home. I spent a good hour in our bathroom having a darn good cry once back…scared, excited, lonely, overwhelmed…everything at once just came up but I felt better for it. It does us no good trapping emotion in.
By mid-afternoon my scar line felt tender, so much so I changed from bralet to comfortable sports bra long before I needed to set off for spin class. To add to body oddities I’ve realised they were right about my underarm hair not growing as well on my left side. It looks smooth but the downside is I’ve no help in regulating my temperature that side…I have to use a different antiperspirant because that side sweats excessively at the moment. Which is something I lost the ability to do anywhere during chemo!! Now it’s a free for all that I have to be mindful of, especially in the week post hormone injection…the joys of menopause and being more physically active.
Wednesday – I felt better in spirit all day and more grounded. I had to have an early start due to appointments but I’d everything stood ready and organised so that I had no rush.
My quads and knees ached a little after my long run and Mondays walk…they don’t like the downhill but I know it strengthens them at the same time. Regardless though I stuck to my hill repeats, adding in a kilometre extra of hills so that I only did 1K at tempo. I felt strong but the last hill repetition really took it out of me and I felt uncomfortable.
I did a brave thing that I haven’t in a very long time, I drove into Sheffield! My car needed its service and first MOT which meant navigating Sheffield traffic and huge roundabouts but I got there safely and with time to spare. Driving is something I want to do more of and build on as the fatigue from treatment lessens, this felt like a positive good step. The Service Assistant kindly booked and paid for a taxi to take me to the hospital, plus the one to take me back to the dealership after they’d finished with my car. A kindness I’d not expected but was awfully grateful for. It meant I had time after my radiotherapy appointment so I popped into Weston Park Museum. I haven’t walked around all of it in a long time so it was nice to incorporate it into my last treatment week.
The Support Centre had a cancellation, so knowing I’d still two hours before my taxi was due, after a spot of lunch I had my second complimentary therapy – a reflexology session! I’d never had one before and would highly recommend it. I felt so refreshed afterwards, plus the therapist and I discussed that she could tell by the feel of my feet that I’ve weakness in my left side, and that my muscles in my core still need more work. She recommended more yoga, pilates and seeing a physiotherapist for an advisory session. Definite food for thought! Especially given that my left knee had played up all day and walking around had become quite painful.
Thursday – Pain…intense pain! Down the inside of my left knee and somewhere in the muscle of my thigh near it!
Monday evening it was as if my leg went backwards somehow as I moved in the kitchen…there was pain and I just figured maybe I’d sat too long. Wednesday trying to walk uphill or downhill was awful but by Thursday morning it didn’t feel too bad…until I actually got outside and tried to run. I’ve run on aches before but this was different and putting my foot to the floor was nearly unbearable. I managed 2K out of 6.5K, stopping because I knew that whatever was wrong needed attention…but also what that would be doing to my right leg which was taking the burden. I came home and did an hours strength training for focus and the need to occupy my mind. Then cried, found a physio who could get me in mid-afternoon, cried some more, had breakfast and then yeah…cried some more.
I was so scared something awful was wrong. My responsible brain told me that my long run and then Mondays hike and run were just too much too soon.
In the middle of it all was radiotherapy and thankfully everything was running late so I had to sit, read and just keep on with things instead of letting my leg run my thoughts.
I’d made the silly mistake of dressing in a hurry that morning and putting an ordinary bra on. The relief of sitting over two hours without it, in a hospital gown, was blissful. Having to put it back on afterwards, knowing I’d not long enough between getting home and going to the physio to change, was awful. The material pitched against my tender skin and the wire touched my sensitive scar line and treatment area. Thankfully the soreness in my leg while walking back to the bus soon took my mind off my top half!
The physiotherapist was amazing…huge thanks to Rob at Activ for his magic hands. I shall forever chuckle that he named muscles and parts thinking I knew what he was talking about because I run…I didn’t, but thankfully he pointed without realising while talking so I got the jist. Things weren’t as bad as I’d feared but I was so right to go. My muscles had tightened up around my joints and tendons following my long run at the weekend, there’s weakness in my abductor, I’d pushed everything further on our hike Monday and my recovery run was actually a bit too hilly. If I’d only done one of those workouts he thought I may have been ok but really I’d pushed my body too much with both…I’m still building myself and my muscles back up following all chemo did…something I needed slapping to remember and my leg slapped me good!
I was massaged within an inch and left feeling great. I’m to take things steady, get back to foam rolling daily without excuse or fail, continue with my strength training but incorporate more held deep lunges and side planks. When I next run I’m to take it slowly and carefully too and stick like glue to my training plan so that my mileage increases gradually and my cut back weeks are paid attention to.
Friday – Feeling cautious and with it being Friday, so not wanting to do too much before a weekend of running, I concentrated my strength training on my upper body only. It felt a challenging but good hour.
My fabulous parents had left me a card to open (image below) and the contents made me cry, especially after yesterday when the news could have put a dampener on the one thing that has kept me going through treatment, my demons and the side effects, the most.
This was the first day of my Moving Forward Course. For the next four weeks I’ll meet other ladies like me and discuss ways to move away from cancer patient back to self. Another part of building me and a hugely necessary, reassuring one given how much fear of recurrence and the future is already weighing on my mind. We had a great morning, very focused this week on exercise and the benefits of activity for health…something I feel very strongly about, but nice to see others points of view. The site of the meeting, at the beautiful Victoria Quays, is tucked away and tranquil…which meant many of us walked and talked our way back into the City together.
I felt an odd sense of calm and peace once at the hospital. All the overwhelming emotions suddenly calmed, acceptance and appreciation took over. It’s been a long five weeks which have passed very quickly and I’m very thankful to have so little noticeable marking on my skin. I’ve seen and heard awful stories of blistering, intense redness and peeling skin – therefore this is what mine looks like incase it can give hope to anyone who may face the same:
The countdown of the five positions of the machine moving around me for treatment was so exciting, being told “last one, breath in” sounded so good! I’ve waited a long time to ring the bell for the end of my active treatment – it felt great!
Once home my boy and I celebrated the day quietly and had a reflective, relaxing evening together. I felt very emotional…different things all at once but overall an utter sense of achievement.
Saturday – My long run distance over the weekend was split due to my first race event on Sunday. Saturday morning was 13K of easy road run in storm Hannah…except it wasn’t easy and my leg niggled all the way, thankfully no sharp pain though. I did notice once back how tight my calf and shin were – a sign I’d compensated for the ache in my upper leg! My foam roller was my friend all day and a lovely half hour of yoga helped relax my body and mind.
I’ve had a lot of people ask if there will be pen put to paper regarding my full cancer experience, running throughout and how life has generally felt. As it felt like day one of a new beginning it seemed only right to start looking at the actual possibility of putting a book together. I’m unsure how long it will take and some things I’ve no idea how to do…but life should always be a challenge. A rainy day changing plans made for another good bolstering excuse to get started.
Sunday – It’s my first race event day, nervous excitement has taken over and I can’t wait for what the day will bring. The sky is clearer, the rain has stopped and my inov-8s are stood ready…let’s do this!